Let’s talk about Fleabag, the TV equivalent of going gluten free; everybody’s talking about it. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock (unlikely), or don’t really watch TV (everyone’s got a laptop and a Netflix account, so don’t lie) Fleabag is the creation of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and started life at Soho Theatre before stumbling its way over to BBC Three this year.
Whether you watched the entire series in awe of the UK’s answer to Lena Dunham or found yourself too caught up in the Great British Bake Off scandal to care about anything else, one thing is clear; people are excited about Fleabag and what it’s doing for women. Which is great, except that deep down, once you’re three bottles of wine in and got past the funny bits, you can’t help but feel that it’s not enough.
Let me be clear, Fleabag is good. It’s well written, the concept is fresh and entertaining. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is pretty convincing as a lost twenty-something trying to drink her way through London and keep her head above the very turbulent and muddy water. It tackles some of the most prevalent issues young women face today which, at times, makes it’s hard to watch – this is a good thing as women-led shows shouldn’t always make for easy viewing. It’s a good depiction of a flawed, sexually provocative and uncompromising woman which is what TV and the world, needs to see more of.
But it’s not enough, is it? Not really. Is Fleabag really as good as we get? People seem afraid to point out the obvious problems with the series; that it’s about predominantly white, privileged people scraping money and stealing wine but still living in a large one bedroom flat in London. There is an air of romanticising this in the show – what fun it looks to be poor in London!
I want stories about women who are standing completely outside the box that people try to put them in, not ones that keep a toe in to keep the producers on side. I want to see women of colour, I want to see women of different sizes, different backgrounds with different ambitions. Why wouldn’t we want to educate ourselves on what other women go through? To transfer this onto screen, stage and paper? Art is meant to be a reflection of the world we live in, how can it be if it chooses to be selective?
What we’re tired of, what we want to scream at those who say ‘yeah but they had that TV show on didn’t they? That’s good’ is OF COURSE IT’S GOOD, BUT WHY ON EARTH SHOULDN’T MORE BE ON SCREEN!? WHY ARE WE MADE TO FEEL INDEBTED TO A PRODUCTION COMPANY THAT’S GIVING US THE BARE MINIMUM OF WHAT IT SHOULD? WHY ARE WE BEING GIVEN THE CRUMBS OF THE CAKE WE BLOODY DESERVE!?
I am exhausted of explaining why Fleabag is not enough, why Girls isn’t enough. I, as a young woman, am hungry for more. I am starving for something more to chew on, to watch television that reflects what it’s like to be struggling in a way that doesn’t involve nicking a bottle of wine and masturbating to Obama. I want to see the comedy in the truly difficult things that women face today and to find the relief in it.
There is an entire world that is not being given a platform right now; we need more, we need more, we need more! I wanted to love Fleabag desperately, I wanted to come away feeling empowered and excited about the future of television for women and the stories we are all beginning to tell but I can’t, I can’t ignore the things that I scrutinise male driven TV shows for.
Fleabag is good. It’ sin the direction we should be going in. It is not, however, the destination we’ve been walking towards for years. It is not enough, and we deserve more. We deserve more than Fleabag and more than Girls. It is vital that we acknowledge how much space is left for more diversity in TV. We cannot pretend to be smashing down walls if we’re still prepared to leave half of it standing to trip the rest of us up.